Curious call

WHAT BUSINESS do business groups have with government’s internal processes such as the setting of public school teachers’ salaries?

Six business groups called for “moderate and phased” implementation of public school teachers’ call for pay hike. It’s curious, really. Why are they against the call? The intentions of these groups must be questioned. For one, why didn’t they even whimper when basic pay of uniformed personnel was doubled.

Increasing the buying capacity of some 800,000 public school teachers will even stimulate economic activity and the benefits will in no time redound to the nation’s economy.

The business groups are painting a doom’s day scenario in its warning that the grant of substantial salary increase to teachers may result to “economic collapse.” But what else can we expect from big businessmen whose wealth rests upon the exploitation of cheap labor? They always bully the nation with the same nonsensical threats of economic collapse every time the workers cry for scraps from their own toil, while such would only mean a small dent on their profits.
The State is not a business and should not be run like one. Its primary duty is to deliver services to the people and is mandated to uphold equity and social justice starting from its own backyard. Oligarchs should back off and mind their own business.

Education and budget officials, and now these business groups, are parroting each other’s stance on public school teachers’ clamor for pay hike. They’re insisting that granting such is a fiscal impossibility, especially with the huge number of public school teachers. But we already know that these are untrue. The government has the money but has the wrong priorities. The 2019 budget alone shows that the government has P3.7 trillion but a vast majority of it goes to “war programs” and to “build, build, build” projects.
Education secretary Leonor Briones and business groups chorus in lamenting that increasing the pay of public school teachers will undermine the competitiveness of private schools. But it is unfair to make public school teachers suffer on meager salaries just because private school owners would not give their teachers humane pay. The government has a duty to take care of its own employees and the moral responsibility to enforce standards on the private sector to safeguard the well-being of private sector workers.

The arguments raised by the business groups were what constituted the framework used in government salary schemes since 1989 and have resulted to inequitable and unjust salary schemes to the detriment of the teachers and other rank and file employees. This problematic market-dictated framework has already caused too much suffering to ordinary employees. It has only widened the gap between top officials and rank-and-file employees, rendering salaries of teachers and other low-level public servants incapable of coping with the rising cost of living.

It is high time for the government to ditch it altogether and truly fulfil its duty of nurturing its own workers.


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